Light Dawns Over China
by Chris D. Gray
Shawn stood high atop a rocky cliff that overlooked the sea. Shading his eyes, as though to salute the incoming tide, he strained to see beyond the horizon.
"It's still just too far away," Shawn sighed.
Shawn's father once told him. "The Pacific Ocean is the only thing standing between us and China. You could almost say we're neighbors."
Shawn had come to the beach many times before hoping to catch a glimpse of this distant, mysterious land. But again he had to leave that mystery for another day.
Shawn climbed down the rocks to the sand below. He walked home a bit disappointed.
A few weeks later Shawn's father arrived home from work with exciting news. His company was going to send him on a three-day business trip to China.
"Do you want to go with me, Shawn?" asked his father.
"Yeah! But what about Mom?" Shawn asked.
"I'm going to stay home, Shawn," explained his mother. "The hospital needs me, and it would be unfair to leave on such short notice. But I want you to go along with Dad and have a good time."
Shawn could hardly wait to leave. Finally the departure day came. On her way to work that morning his mother drove Shawn and his father to the airport.
Before they boarded the plane, Shawn's mother kissed him on the cheek. With the tears of a proud mom welling up in her eyes she said, "Have a great time, Honey, and be good for your dad."
"I will, Mom," Shawn promised her. After one more round of hugs Shawn and his father walked through the security gate and headed for the plane.
Their flight left Los Angeles at 9:00 a.m. When they had been in the air twelve hours, Shawn's father told him, "This is the time you would normally go to bed."
"How can that be?" Shawn inquired. "The sun is still very high in the sky."
"Yes," replied his father. "We are chasing the sun. It is still moving faster than the plane, but it will take a longer time to pass out of our sight."
Shawn did fall asleep. He woke up a few hours later when the plane landed in Tokyo, Japan. Shawn and his father both slept on the last leg of their journey from Japan to China. They arrived in Beijing, the capital city of China, just as the sun was sinking below the horizon.
From Beijing they boarded a train for a three-hour trip to a city on the coast. Shawn and his father also slept on the train. They finally checked into their hotel at midnight.
"Shawn, you probably don't feel sleepy now," explained his father. "That's what they call jet lag. The sun rises and sets at a different time here than it does at home. So our days will seem a little off balance. Let's see if we can sleep at all tonight. Then we will go to the beach early in the morning to watch the sunrise over the sea."
Shawn didn't sleep much more that night. His father called a taxi cab to take them to a secluded beach away from the city lights. When they arrived, they walked along a trail winding down a sandy hill to the sea. Shawn was glad he brought his flashlight, because the path was steep and very rugged.
In darkness Shawn stood with his father along the remote shoreline. "Turn off your flashlight, son," said his father. "You don't want to spoil the light show."
The blackness of the sky began to soften above the water's edge. Suddenly flames of yellow and orange seemed to leap out of the sea.
"Oh, no!" Shawn gasped. "Something's wrong."
His father gazed at the sight breathless. He gently rested a hand on Shawn's shoulder. With his other hand he pointed to the brilliant display, as if to say, "It's okay, Just watch." Dim shades of blue took on the hue of the melting flames. Then the yellow disk of the sun emerged.
As the night's veil lifted off the earth, sunlight spilled into Shawn's new surroundings. China was no longer a distant land hidden behind the great wall of the sea. At last Shawn was free to explore and discover the wonders that would no more be shrouded in mystery.
I was born in 1969 in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. I had never traveled outside the continental U.S. until the age of 33. Early in 2003 I spent a month in Beijing, China as part of a Youth With A Mission outreach team. Later in September of 2003 I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) in Wuhan, China.